Katie Powner - Refreshing and Meaningful Contemporary Stories
Katie Powner is an award-winning author who lives in Montana, where cows still outnumber people. She writes contemporary fiction about redemption, relationships, and finding the dirt road home. Katie is a mom to the third power (biological, adoptive, and foster) who believes every child deserves a loving family. As our Author of the Day, she tells us all about her book, Where the Blue Sky Begins.
What inspired you to write this story?
I had been thinking about what I wanted to write next for several months when I was driving to an appointment one day. I turned onto a certain road and found myself steering carefully around a woman on a scooter driving on the shoulder. She was wearing an oversized helmet and a trench coat and just puttering along as if it were perfectly reasonable for her to be on a busy high-speed road with her scooter. I couldn’t help but wonder: Where is she going? Why is she driving a scooter? Why is she wearing a trench coat in summer? And the next thing I knew, the storyline for Where the Blue Sky Begins was born.
This was a 2023 Selah Awards Finalist. What surprised you most about readers' reactions to this story?
I’ve heard from a lot of readers that they expected this book to be your typical Hallmark story where a big city guy goes to a small town and meets a girl, but when they read it they discovered Where the Blue Sky Begins is not at all what they expected. For one thing, there’s no romance—this book is about friendship and community. For another thing, everything is not tied up in a nice bow at the end like you get with a Hallmark movie. This story is honest and real.
Tell us more about your journey to become an author. Have you always known you wanted to be a writer?
I’ve been a storyteller ever since I could talk, and I’ve always wanted to be an author. I didn’t grow up thinking I would someday be a ballerina or a doctor or an astronaut. I only wanted to write books. When I married and had kids at a young age, I was always writing poetry and song lyrics but thought the books would have to wait until my kids were grown up.
God had other plans. I accidentally started a novel about ten years ago and before I knew it, I had written a whole book. Writing novels quickly became something of an obsession and a way for me to cope with and process my life. The first four novels I completed were all rejected by numerous agents and publishers, but my fifth book, The Sowing Season, became my first published novel.
Besides writing, what other secret skills do you have?
I don’t know if this qualifies as a “skill,” but I love collecting unique and colorful items for my front yard, much like Eunice in the story. I want to have the kind of yard that makes people stop and smile as they are walking by.
Another secret skill I have is fostering babies. My husband and I have been fostering babies for about seven years now and it has changed our lives and grown our hearts. Being there for these kids during some of their most vulnerable moments is something we feel God has called us to do, and it also helps me keep my writing career in perspective. Book awards and new contracts and good reviews and sales just don’t seem as important when I have an abused or neglected little one who needs me.
What makes Eunice Parker so special?
I loved writing Eunice because she was unpredictable. Nothing about her life was “normal,” and she had no way of being prepared for what she was facing and experiencing, so there was no telling what she might do next. Her moods changed frequently; her health influenced her decisions. Those same things also made her difficult to write because I’ve never been in her shoes. Though I couldn’t necessarily relate to her, I just tried to imagine what I might feel in her situation and write as honestly as I could.
The characters in your books are everyday, salt-of-the-earth people. Are they inspired by any people you know?
I grew up on a dairy farm outside a tiny town of about a hundred people. Now I live in a farming community in rural Montana. So, in a lot of ways, the everyday, salt-of-the-earth people in my books are inspired by everyone I know. The people I’ve grown up with, worked beside, chased cows with, hauled dirt with. The neighbors raising their kids alongside mine and the farmers who bring bags of potatoes to church to share with the community. I love these people.
Readers say the book is very thought-provoking. What do you hope readers will take away from this story?
This is difficult to answer without giving too much away, but one thing I hope readers are encouraged to do after reading this book is give people, especially people who seem hard to love at first, a chance. Don’t be too quick to judge based on outward appearances or first impressions. You never know what someone else is going through.
When starting on a new book, what is the first thing you do?
It depends on what “starting” means, ha! I first “start” a book when a tidbit of an idea comes to mind and I write it in my idea notebook. From there, it starts to percolate, and if it begins to grow and develop, then I write out a bare bones outline by hand. This is when it becomes clear whether I have enough of a story to fill an 90k-word novel or whether it’s just not ready yet. If it’s ready, I write a more detailed outline on the computer, set goals for words-per-month and completion dates, and start drafting.
Do you have any interesting writing habits? What is an average writing day like for you?
I don’t think anything I do is very interesting, but some people find it odd that I am a silent writer. I can’t have any background noise or music while I’m drafting. I also have no coffee or tea or snacks at my desk when I’m drafting. It’s just me, my notebook, and my computer. Oh, and my mascot, a stuffed cow named Moolene who wears red Converse All-Stars.
What are you working on right now?
I’ve completed all the edits for my upcoming release, The Wind Blows in Sleeping Grass, so I’ve recently moved on to a new story set in Montana ranching country about a guy who goes to work on a ranch for the summer and finds his world turned upside down. This book does not have a contract yet, but I’m hoping someday it will.
Where can our readers discover more of your work or interact with you?
I love connecting with readers! If you go to my website at katiepowner.com, you can sign up for my newsletter, which is the best way to get exclusive news, deals, content, and giveaways. You can also find a contact page on the website and links to all my social media accounts.